(13-WHAM) A series of benefit seminars for Medicare-eligible Kodak retirees were overrun with attendance -- and traffic on Lyell Avenue, which bogged down from 8am to early afternoon Friday in front of The Diplomat banquet center.
MVP Healthcare hosted the seminars and expected 300 people for each. Instead, they had to cap the room at 600 people, turning away dozens and holding impromptu seminars in the hallway outside.
"We're surprised," said Patrick Glavey, Executive Vice President of Government Programs for MVP Healthcare. "There's extremely strong interest. People want to know their options." Glavey added that MVP will hold more seminars next Friday, November 9th at the Holiday Inn at the airport and at the Burgundy Basin Inn.
"We got here at 8:30 and couldn't even get in the lot," said Mary Johnson, the widow of a Kodak retiree who returned for a later seminar. "There was no traffic cop directing traffic and it was backed up for miles." She added about MVP, "They've been great. We have to know what we're facing. Kodak has been terrible."
A judge is likely to decide next week whether to uphold Kodak's request to eliminate health benefits for retirees. "We knew it was coming," said Mike Loefstedt, a retiree. "We had to make good decisions, put money away because Kodak wasn't going to be there for us forever. Some people are probably really hurting, though."
Most of the retirees we spoke to at The Diplomat are assuming the judge will decide in Kodak's favor. That means evaluating plans; MVP presented options with monthly deductibles ranging from $33 to $190.
Glavey explained that these retirees are not eligible for a group rate because they're not longer part of a sanctioned group, thanks to the moves made by Kodak. But he said MVP is doing its best to help. "Change is difficult," he said. "We've had these folks on the group side for many years. So we try to empathize with the situation, let them know they'll still be safe and secure."